Denying biology in favor of ideology

Everyday Feminism, whose goal is to make progressives feel bad about themselves, no matter how progressive they are, has a new post by James St. James called “Here are 20 examples of cissexism that we’ve probably all committed at some point”.  (About 50% of their articles are listicles of this sort, and I have no idea why. Do people read something more readily if they know how many items it will cover?)

At any rate, the first “fallacy” in the piece disturbed me because it’s simply a denial of biology in service of an ideological view: the view there is no such thing as biologically-determined sex. But that’s completely bogus, and if you knew something about human biology, or animal biology in general, you’d see how ridiculous this claim really is. Pay attention to the last two paragraphs of the indented bit below (their emphasis):

1. Believing That XX and XY Actually Mean Something

Boom. Let’s start with one of my favorites, if only because it tends to ignite passions the fastest.

Now, to be fair, XX and XY chromosome pairs do mean something: a general idea of future conditions a person may or may not develop that are directly due to those chromosomal pairings.

They do not, however, concretely stand for any of the following: indicating a person’s intelligence, physical abilities, sexual orientation, development during puberty, appearance or make of genitals, or what level of bodily production of which sex hormones.

In short, XY does not indicate a biological man and XX does not indicate a biological woman.

Why not?

We simply have too many examples of when any of the above was untrue.

Transgenderism, intersexuality, and Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), to name a few. (Fun fact: That last one can sometimes give female-identified people the stereotypical look of a model. Just sayin’.)

Think about it: If one instance of a mathematical proof is shown to be wrong, then the entire proof has to be tossed on account of it being deemed inaccurate. Because it’s—you know—useless to the bettering and/or benefit of humankind.

Call me starry-eyed, but I’m preeeeetty sure we like to treat our science like our math as often as we can.

The author reluctantly admits this: “XX and XY chromosome pairs do mean something: general idea of future conditions a person may or may not develop that are directly due to those chromosomal pairings.” That’s about as weaselly as it gets!: “future conditions a person may or may not develop” (the “pairings, by the way, take place only during gamete formation).  In Drosophila and humans, the two species with which I’m most familiar, the behavior, appearance, and primary and secondary sex characteristics are determined almost completely by whether the chromosomal constitution is male (XY) or female (XX).  (In birds and butterflies, unlike mammals, it’s the female who has unlike sex chromosomes and the male has like sex chromosomes, but again, biological sex is determined by the nature of the sex chromosomes.) 

Yes, there are a few exceptions, like AIS, but the various forms of that syndrome occur between 1 in every 20,000 to 1 in only 130,000 births.  Is that “too many examples” to all0w us to say that biological sex is not connected with chromosomes? If you look at all cases of intersexuality that occur in people with XX or XY chromosomes (we’re not counting XOs or XXYs or other cases of abnormal chromosomal number), the frequency of exceptions is far less than 1%. That means that, in humans as in flies, there is almost a complete correlation between primary/secondary sex characteristics and chromosome constitution.  As for intelligence, no, I know of no correlation, but who’s claiming that the sexes differ in smarts? As for physical abilities, sexual orientation, appearance of genitalia, and hormone titer, the correlation between being XX or XY and those traits is very tight. Again, there are exceptions: some females are bigger, stronger, and have more muscles mass than some males, but there’s a biological reason why most Olympic events depending on physical traits are separated by sex. What we see is a bimodality of traits depending on sex-chromosome constitution, with a very low valley between those two XX and XY peaks. 

How does James St. James respond to these uncontestable correlations? By saying that we have to abandon the whole notion of biological sex because there is a small percentage of exceptions, as the correlation is not perfect. As he says (I’m assuming James St. James is a “he”):

“If one instance of a mathematical proof is shown to be wrong, then the entire proof has to be tossed on account of it being deemed inaccurate. [JAC: what he means is that “the proof is wrong”.] Because it’s—you know—useless to the bettering and/or benefit of humankind. Call me starry-eyed, but I’m preeeeetty sure we like to treat our science like our math as often as we can.”

I wouldn’t call him starry eyed, but arrantly ignorant of biology, and willfully so because he wants to believe that sex is a complete continuum, which fits his ideological agenda. I suppose that agenda comes from assuming that we have to shade the biological truth because those who don’t conform to the norms (intersexes, transgender people, and so on) will be marginalized or discriminated against.

And indeed, that can happen, and has happened. But the solution is not to lie about or distort biology, pretending that biological sex is a complete continuum with no modes. The solution is to accept the biological facts and realize that they say nothing about what’s moral or immoral, or about how we should treat people. A genuine bimodality of sexual traits does not mean that we should treat those who lie between the peaks as “inferior” or “wrong”.

And we don’t treat biology like math, ignoring a phenomenon if there are some exceptions.  Math is a system of logic; biology is the messy real world, where things can go awry and there are no absolute “laws” in the sense that physics has them. To use part of a famous quote by Richard Feynman, “reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”

Indeed. It’s a characteristic of the Regressive Left that they deny scientific truths when it’s convenient for them to do so—when they’re faced with Ideologically Inconvenient Truths. We all know the dangers of that route—Lysenko comes to mind. It’s far better to know what’s true, and deal with it, than make up stuff that fits your narrative. The latter is what theologians do, not rational people.

106 Comments

  1. Joseph Stans
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Can we hold off on junking the sex idiationvuntill after my weekend t tht shore coming up.

  2. GM
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    we’re not counting XOs or XXYs or other cases of abnormal chromosomal number

    Did you just commit an act of verbal aggression against non-chromosomal-normative individuals? /s

  3. fizziks
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    There is some notion around that Everyday Feminism is a sort of parody site. Their content is so unbelievably ridiculous.

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      It’s not a parody, but that shows how close Regressive Leftism approximates a parody of itself.

      • fizziks
        Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        Are you sure it is not a parody? Or at least that some people who submit articles there may be in on the joke? Similar to how Godfrey Elfwick got his op-eds in the Guardian?

        • BJ
          Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

          Eventually, all regressive leftism (and extremes of ideology in general) end up parodying themselves as the extremists try to one-up each other in the pursuit of gaining credibility. For example, we used to joke that eventually trigger warnings would need their own trigger warning or have to change the term because the word “trigger” might become too triggering. Well, two or three years ago, a lot of these people started using “content warning” instead. Why? Because they thought “trigger warning” might be too triggering.

        • Luis Servin
          Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

          It’s hard to believe it’s not a parody when you log to the site and the first thing you see is a banner for an online training program for white people committed to racial justice called “Healing from Toxic Whiteness”.

          • eric
            Posted June 7, 2017 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

            LOL that could be the title of a Wayans brothers skit. 🙂

          • Posted June 8, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

            The good programs to heal from toxic whiteness are offline, and can be summarized as follows:

            1. Take 2-3 weeks off in July or August.
            2. Go to a sea or mountain resort; if you cannot afford it, any place where you can get away with undressing will do.
            3. Gradually expose yourself to the sun.

            I feel suffering from toxic whiteness right now…

          • Filippo
            Posted June 10, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

            “Healing from Toxic Whiteness”.

            I wonder if Regressive Leftists hold that Obama suffers from that.

            When Obama was elected POTUS, some folks vocalized concern whether Obama were “black enough.” I haven’t heard what their final verdict is on that (if a final verdict there can ever be).

  4. Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    “It’s a characteristic of the Regressive Left that they deny scientific truths when it’s convenient for them to do so…”

    Okay, it’s a characteristic of a fringe subset of the left. But can’t we also note that it’s pervasive characteristic of the entire right?

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      No. I have three right-wing friends, only one of whom denies scientific reality.

    • fizziks
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think that is accurate.

      Science denial is a huge problem with much of, yes, but not the -entire- political right.

      Also, it is not confined to a fringe subset of the left.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted June 8, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

        I’m with you on this observation. Much of the ‘New Age’ crowd is de facto anti-science by virtue of its foolish metaphysics. Or perhaps New Agers ARE ‘a fringe subset of the left,’ but if so they are legion.

    • josh
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      It’s rampant on the right.

      • Guest
        Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        And the left too. Not only the subject of this article but the anti-vaccine and anti-GMO subjects are mostly left wing. Yea, I know what Trump said, but he was a Democrat until a few years ago and it is quite easy to see that the largest anti-vaccine areas of the US are entirely left wing.

        Then there’s stuff like Goop, Mother Jones, etc. all left wing.

        • Posted June 8, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          Some woo admirers are so off the chart that I cannot determine whether they are left or right.

  5. Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Notice the resemblance to the “conceptual penis” paper, which said:

    “It is also factually incorrect to associate the anatomical penis with male reproductivity.”

  6. Randy schenck
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Is James St. James, even a real name. That might be a defect to look into because how many humans have the same or almost same first and last name. Make a note to check on Mom and Dad. I have a defect in the aortic valve as it is bicuspid instead of tricuspid like almost every other human. I should therefore stop calling it a heart and give it another name. Maybe fuel pump?

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      I have a friend whose parents gave him his last name as a first name (it worked fine for either but not really for both – per Major Major Major – Catch 22). In revenge he took his wife’s name when he married.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted June 7, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

        I thought about catch 22 and major major too. Great movie I thought.

        • Merilee
          Posted June 7, 2017 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

          Book’s even better!!

      • Larry Cook
        Posted June 16, 2017 at 12:01 am | Permalink

        I hate to correct you because you’ve brought up such a wonderful memory for me, but the character ended up being Major Major Major Major. After being drafted, he was promoted to the rank of Major simply because, having the name Major Major Major, he had to be a Major. Military intelligence.

        • Merilee Olson
          Posted June 16, 2017 at 12:03 am | Permalink

          I had a college classmate named Gary Leonard who was a girl. She got placed in a boys’ dorm Freshmen year ( we still had segregated-by-sex dorms)

          Typo ergo sum Merilee

          >

        • Larry Cook
          Posted June 16, 2017 at 12:05 am | Permalink

          Oh, and I forgot. The character was played by Bob Newhart in the movie. He told his assistant that he could only send people in to see him in his office when he was out, and when he was in he was to tell visitors that he was out. One time he was in and the assistant sent someone in anyway, so Newhart went out the window to avoid the visitor. The book does a wonderful job explaining his in and out policy.

  7. Pliny the in Between
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    To PCC –

    Is it fair to say that there is a strong binary chromosomal component to sex, a complex developmental component that results in a range of sexual expression with a strong binodal distribution, and a social overlay that may further blur these distinctions? None of which implies that a given individual shouldn’t be free to choose some point along that continuum that feels comfortable to them.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      If I read that correctly, then a qualified yes. But for the last part, I would not say ‘free to choose’ since what they feel is not a choice. Perhaps it is more like ‘be encouraged to accept the point on the continuum that feels comfortable to them’.

    • James Walker
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      I’m just finishing Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book “The Gene” and he has what I think (although caveat: I’m not a biologist) is a good discussion of chromosomal composition and is penetrance (the phenotypical expression as sex) as well as the interaction with the genome and environment to produce nuances in gender and gender identity. He makes it pretty clear that, while there are exceptions, 99% of the time, the XY/XX difference is expressed as a physical difference.

  8. Merilee
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  9. Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    What bothers me the most about radical lefties like this is not their denial of scientific truths. Its their hypocrisy.
    They’ll claim something in one discussion but in another when the context is different they’ll turn around claim the exact opposite when it suits their political agenda.

  10. J. Quinton
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Less than 1% of Muslims are terrorists. But since there isn’t a 100% correlation between non-extremist Muslims and regular Muslims, we must demolish the terrorist/non-terrorist binary and treat all Muslims as terrorists.

    Your move, James St. James.

  11. Historian
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I glanced at Everyday Feminism and most of the articles seem to be in the vein that Professor Coyne has discussed. Yet, an extremist site such as this can serve a positive social function. Historically, extreme social movements result often in their more sane demands ultimately being accepted while the idiocy is rejected and the movements eventually wither away. An example of this, in an entirely different context, was the momentary and relatively influential rise of socialistic movements in the United States during the early 20th century. While demanding government ownership of major businesses (an extreme unlikelihood in the United States), Socialists also called for legislation such as a minimum wage, social security, and health and safety laws in the workplace. Due in part to socialistic agitation, these demands came to pass in the legislation of the New Deal and now are accepted as part of the social safety net by most (except, of course, by those who now control the Republican Party). Thus, in regard to the demands enunciated in Everyday Feminism articles, I think we will see a greater acceptance of transgender people as something other than freaks, while the babbling nonsense is totally forgotten.

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Sorry. but the “babbling nonsense” is infecting campuses all over the US (and the UK), and it’s not going to be forgotten soon. As for the contribution of that site to the recognition of transgender rights, that’s almost nil; what’s happening is that average people, who don’t read that site, are getting fed up with the discrimination they see promulgated by, among others, Republicans. This is part of the general increase in morality documented by Pinker in The Better Angels of our Nature.

      What you’re doing is cherry-picking what you like, and pretending the rest doesn’t exist, which is what believers do with the Bible.

      • Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        I agree that we are on a dangerous course (the infection in academia is deep and will be very difficult to weed out) but I also agree with Historian….in a way (I’m not sure I grasp exactly what (s)he is saying).

        The way I see it is society is like a stew; if you don’t stir it up from time to time scum floats to the surface. Pendulums and all that. So in that view, the rise of the regressive left (and the alt-right) signals an on-going shift in social mores. The scum floating to the surface -whether it’s regressive-left, Alt-right or whatever- induces society to stir up a bit. The trouble is, if we’re not careful, sometimes that scum can really ruin the stew.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        I see it historically with the extreme ideas of each group, left and right going further in the wrong direction and the only optimistic point is when each side gets so far gone that retaliation sends everything in the other direction. If you look at what took place in Kansas yesterday, this is exactly what took place. For 5 years the heavy republican majority has taken this state down that road of lower and lower taxes and the dream of great economic success. But after 5 years of no economic improvement and a debt so large they are about to close down schools and stopping services. Great damage has been done here and the republicans, or at least a large part of them, joined with the democrats and have overridden the governors vetoes and raised taxes. They will now start digging out of the terrible mess and start adding money that is desperately needed to function. Washington DC should take note as Trump is attempting to do the same thing.

        • Robert Bray
          Posted June 8, 2017 at 8:01 am | Permalink

          And note that Gov. Brownshirt STILL believes he’s right (and Right).

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Demands for a minimum wage, social security, and health and safety laws in the workplace might have progressed a hell of a lot quicker without the shadow of communism making it possible for anyone with reasonable opinions on the subject to be branded a traitor or an apologist for tyranny.

      • BJ
        Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, all those socialistic movements didn’t really seem to play much of a role. They certainly didn’t get FDR elected, they didn’t help him or seem to influence him in his decision-making, and The New Deal was passed in the midst of The Great Depression, which was really the driving force.

        • Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

          Many reforms pre-date Roosevelt and the depression. Trade unions -which were by and large socialist- were the principle drivers of this, irrespective of who elected Roosevelt.

        • Historian
          Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

          Curiously, Herbert Hoover worried greatly about socialistic influences on the New Deal. As this website puts it: “He asserted that he cared for common Americans too much to destroy the country’s foundations with deficits and socialist institutions. He was soundly defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932.” In other words, decades of socialist and leftist agitation for New Deal type legislation created enough public sentiment for laws that allowed FDR and the Democratic congress to pass them in a time of extreme economic crisis, which never would have passed in normal times. FDR appropriated many ideas advocated by socialists, even though the latter did not get credit for them. Today, we might call such actions “political appropriation.”

          https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/new-deal/resources/herbert-hoover-great-depression-and-new-deal-1931%E2%80%931933

          • Craw
            Posted June 7, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            Some of the early ND policies originated with Hoover; FDR ran on a balanced budget platform in ’32; his early monetary policy was tight; the NRA was actually pretty fascist early one, with maximum wage laws for instance (the barber who toppled the early legislation). The early years of his presidency were not very progressive, and the progressive policies we associate with the New Deal did not come out the “100 days” but in later years, after ’35. He was not elected on a wave of demands for progressive policy. He evolved to them when other failed or were overturned.

            • Historian
              Posted June 7, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

              It is true that much of the social legislation we associate with the New Deal did not come to around 1935. However, what disturbed Hoover and other conservatives in the early years was that FDR believed in an activist federal government to attempt to get the nation out of the Depression. During the 1920s, under the presidencies of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, the role of the federal government intervening in the economy was minimal. When Roosevelt got around to proposing social legislation (after his earlier efforts did not work or were overturned by the Supreme Court), he incorporated ideas that socialists and other people on the non-totalitarian left had been advocating for decades.

      • Historian
        Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        Mainstream socialists, under the leadership of Eugene Debs and later Norman Thomas, were not communists. Communists of the Marxist-Leninist variety were always a totally insignificant political force in the United States, even during World War II.

      • Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        I do not believe this is true. Forty hour work week, minimum wage, social security, and health and safety laws in the workplace are the direct result of the work of trade unions, the source of much of the socialism Historian refers to. I think that is the consensus among historians (;-)).

        • BJ
          Posted June 7, 2017 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

          Trade unions were not explicitly socialist, and just because socialists originally created quite a few of them doesn’t make them so. Well before the implementation of many of the policies Historian is talking about here, trade unions were made up of simple workers in their given profession who had a range of political persuasions but were united around a few central ideas.

          • Posted June 7, 2017 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

            You can call it what you like but at the time things like the 40 hour work week, job safety, child labor laws, etc, etc were most definitely considered socialist, even communist by most, even if members of the various unions didn’t join socialist or communist parties.

            Really, if makes no sense dancing around it. These policies were and are socialist. They were fiercely fought by industry then just as their modern equivalents are today.

            • BJ
              Posted June 8, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

              I don’t understand. Are you implying that anything fought by industry is an explicitly socialist policy?

  12. Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I wonder is there a name for the type of apologetic argument that goes something like ‘if a generalization has rare exceptions then you should treat the generalization as completely false and the exceptions as typical’. I have been seeing it around a lot.

  13. David Hammer
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    According to Wikipedia, James St. James is a television personality and “celebutante” (celebrity + debutante), who studied performance art at NYU for two years “before being absorbed into New York’s club scene.” So his credentials are very strong for making definitive scientific statements about biology.

    • Luis Servin
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Just search for “James St. James” videos in YouTube and you’ll get a pretty good idea of who he is.

  14. Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    It reminds me of the Christian medieval view of nature as a repository of moral lessons. A more sensible approach would be to accept nature with all its messiness as it is and not co-opt biology as a prop in an argument about human rights.

    A better understanding of human variability is more likely to lead to greater acceptance than ill-informed and needless rhetoric.

  15. Christine Janis
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    One can draw a regression line showing the correlation between number of X chromosomes and number of balls. As there are XO females, and XXY, and XXXY males, the overall correlation is positive. Which means, Jerry, that I am more likely to have balls than you do. (I’m not going to touch the anatomical penis with a barge pole.)

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      To hear some tell it, the anatomical penis is longer than a barge pole….

      b&

      >

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, I’m confused. There are a vast number of people with one X and one Y that have two testes. And there are a vast number of people with two Xs that have no testes. The correlation between number of testes and number of Xs is negative, despite the rare genotypes you mention. Maybe I’m not understanding you, but if each individual is one data point, how do you get a POSITIVE correlation among humans between number of Xs and number of testes????

      • Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        I think (hope!) Christine was parodying the illogic of the Saintly double James. Naively count up merely the genotypes and the corresponding phenotypes, and there are more testiculated phenotypes with more X chromosomes. This (intentionally!?) ignores the roles the chromosomes actually play in gonadic expression, and does so by similarly ignoring the demographics of the population.

        Or, if you squint in exactly the worng way, you can pretend to see whatever you want to convince yourself of.

        b&

        >

        • Christine Janis
          Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          Absolutely, was plotting genotypes not individuals.

      • Craw
        Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        I once saw the advice that you should sort, independently, the dependent and independent variables before running a regression. (You get stronger correlations that way I was told.) That might do it.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      You don’t get any balls unless you have a Y chromosome, that’s where the sry (sex determination factor y chromosome – sometimes known as TDF – testis determining factor) gene is located.

      So, a person who is XY with AIS has a female phenotype with undescended testes and no ovaries. Having more Xs won’t increase the number of nuts. Reading some of these websites however seems to be driving our host that way 🙂

      • Christine Janis
        Posted June 7, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        “Having more Xs won’t increase the number of nuts.”

        True. But as some XY genotypes have no balls (i.e., descended), and some have only one, you can force a regression line through the phenotype data (going from 0 to 2). Jerry knows the statistically-competent friend who helped me to do this ——

  16. rickflick
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Pretty bizarre paper. If I had to guess, the motive behind such bizarre writing has to do with a fear that somebody somewhere will be discriminated against. This is a real fear, of course, but it doesn’t take bending science into a pretzel to persuade against discrimination against minorities. It simply takes a reasonable moral stance which should not be that hard to defend.

  17. busterggi
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Can we at least all agree that Vin Diesel is the only real XXX?

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      There are people with XXXX karyotype. They are more common than you’d expect. I know this because every sex shop I have seen has a neon light in the window advertising XXXX Videos.

  18. Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    “XX and XY chromosome pairs do mean something: general idea of future conditions a person may or may not develop that are directly due to those chromosomal pairings.”

    Minor conditions, presumably, like getting pregnant.

  19. Adam M.
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Guys with AIS aren’t females, though. They develop testes and they do not develop a uterus or ovaries. Some of them look much like females and may live as women, but it’s not the case that XY-chromosome humans ever become female. You might argue that guys with AIS or other intersex conditions aren’t male either (although some produce are fertile and can father children).

    Sex chromosomes do mean something, and I doubt they can produce a single example of an XX human born with testes or an XY human born with ovaries and a uterus.

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Doesn’t that depend on how you define male and female?

      An XY person with AIS look female externally and is usually brought up as female and usually identifies as female. Sounds pretty female to me!

      She doesn’t have the ordinary female internal anatomy (and may but usually doesn’t have a testis descend), but then, some XX females have more or less non-ordinary anatomy also.

      Biologically, sex chromosomes are really, really important for determining gender. but like most of biology, the situation is a bit messy.

      • Posted June 7, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        Yes, but only a wee bit. That’s the point.

      • Adam M.
        Posted June 8, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        Well if we want to keep the distinction between sex and gender, which seems useful, then I’d say that if they look female and live like women then that’s their gender, but that they’re still male since they have testes, produce sperm, and can occasionally father children (especially with help delivering the sperm). (Only more severe cases of AIS lead to an externally female-looking body. Milder cases look male, and some I suppose look in-between.)

        I’m okay with the idea of a “male woman” in cases like this, and with the idea of people having certain other intersex conditions being neither male nor female (or both, but I’m not aware of any person ever having had both types of gonads).

        It gets a lot messier if you start mixing sex and gender, but of course these words don’t have universally agreed definitions so I’m sure that adds to the messiness.

      • Posted June 8, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        Years ago I wrote a draft of a book chapter (for a book that never went anywhere) about all the *different* ways that one could be conceivably be “male” or “female” (or various something elses, depending on the ways)

        I seem to remember I came to the conclusion that all the notions are sort of probabilistic.

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      Check out XX male syndrome. The individual has two X chromosomes, and one of them has a copy of the SRY gene that signals the early embryo to become male. (SRY is normally found on the Y chromosome, but can get to the X chromosome by crossing over.) In humans, the individuals have testes but are (usually??) sterile.

      Incredibly important though the X and Y chromosomes are to gender, the situation is a little more complicated.

      • Posted June 7, 2017 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        That’s caused by the SRY gene crossing over from the Y chromosome to the X.

        It’s also an abnormality. XX males are infertile. XX males are not a reproductive sex.

        Far from disproving the link between karyotype and sex it actually supports it.

        • Posted June 8, 2017 at 12:41 am | Permalink

          Adam M. above wrote, ” I doubt they can produce a single example of an XX human born with testes” as part of his apparent argument that sex chromosomes are all that determine gender.

          My point in bringing up male syndrome was to provide an example of XX humans with testes. You’re right that XX human males are male because they have the SRY gene on the X chromosome due to crossing over. And you’re right that XX human males are (always? usually?) sterile. Nonetheless, they do have two chromosomes and no Y, and they have testes, and they are male.

          Nearly always, XY humans are female and XX are male. James St. James with his desire to turn the relationship of sex determination and sex chromosomes into a vague, cloud-like association came across like an idiot (at least where biology is concerned). However, the relationship of sex chromosomes to gender is sometimes (not often) more complicated.

          • Christine Janis
            Posted June 8, 2017 at 3:41 am | Permalink

            “My point in bringing up male syndrome was to provide an example of XX humans with testes.”

            Thanks, that makes my correlation stronger!

      • Adam M.
        Posted June 8, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        Well, that is certainly interesting. But if they got part of a Y chromosome in one of their X chromosomes then they’re kinda like X + Xy (where y is some fraction of Y) rather than X+X. 😛 But I guess it comes down to how people want to define ‘X chromosome’.

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Sex chromosomes do mean something, and I doubt they can produce a single example of an XX human born with testes or an XY human born with ovaries and a uterus.

      There’s also the issue of gamete production. There’s a normal variation in sperm or ova production do some men produce more sperm than others and some women produce more ova than others but there’s no spectrum between then where a single human produces half sperm and half ova, or any ratio of sperm: ova except where one of those values is zero.

  20. rickflick
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Incidentally, while birding with a group the other day, someone mentioned differences between male and female visual abilities. An optometrist with the group said she’d never heard of it. I googled when I got home and found a pair of papers from 2012 showing women have better color discrimination while men have better response to small movements. The authors suggested possible evolutionary basis in early hunter-gatherer behavior. As for birding, it may be that men might excel at spotting a bird by movement, while women might be better able to identify a bird species through subtle color clues.

    Spatio-temporal vision:

    “…for whatever reasons, we find that males have significantly greater sensitivity for fine detail and for rapidly moving stimuli. One interpretation is that this is consistent with sex roles in hunter-gatherer societies.”

    https://bsd.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2042-6410-3-20

    Color vision:

    “There were relatively small but clear and significant, differences between males and females in the hue sensations elicited by almost the entire spectrum. Generally, males required a slightly longer wavelength to experience the same hue as did females.”

    https://bsd.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2042-6410-3-21

    • Luis Servin
      Posted June 8, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Also, a very high porcentaje of men have some type of color blindness, whereas in women it’s much more rare, as the mutations are located in the X chromosome.

      • Luis Servin
        Posted June 8, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, percentage. My Spanish took over.

  21. drew
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Hypothesis:

    Everyday Feminism is a social experiment designed to see just how far they can get progressives to self-flagelate before finally going “OK, wait. No.”

    • Posted June 8, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      I see it more as an attempt to flagellate everyone.

  22. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    As Wikipedia points out “Exactly what evidence is sufficient to prove something is also strongly area-dependent“. (Article on “proof”.

    A proof in math is a linear chain of arguments, in which a break in any one link breaks the chain, just as a heavy object being lifted into the air by a chain will fall, if only a single link in the chain breaks.

    But in statistics, we talk about degrees of correlation, and we acknowledge that in statistical samples there may be outliers that violate the pattern without disproving it. (Think perhaps of a hoist that instead of using a single chain, uses multiple chains.)

    The existence of African albinoes does not disprove that generally folk of African descent have darker skin.

  23. Adam M.
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I was thinking about the stereotype of racist/sexist/X-ist old grandparents or uncles and thinking “that could be me in a couple decades!”

    Believing sex and sex chromosomes are a biological reality apparently makes me a cissexist and opposing a lot of the college student shenanigans allegedly makes me racist. What next? I’d like to think that things will return to “normal” in the coming decades, but it could just as well keep moving in this direction, leaving me feeling like the old racists of yesteryear.

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      That may happen, but there’s a fundamental and important difference here.

      The old questions were whether or not equal opportunity and respect should be given regardless of the classifications under discussion. There wasn’t any serious question over whether a person was black or white; the question was whether or not it was right to insist that those with dark skin must sit at the back of the bus, be refused service at the lunch counter, or tortured to death for fun and profit.

      The new questions are whether or not there’re any actual identifiable differences in the first place — not about whether or not those differences should be used as the basis for discrimination or whatever.

      It’s one thing to insist that all people should have the right to vote (etc.) regardless of gender. It’s another thing entirely to insist that gender itself doesn’t exist.

      …and there’s a more sinister side to this, too, as, far too often, the new trend is to flip the scales, to actively discriminate against those who would have been privileged previously. You can see that in Saint Double James’s screed; cisgendered people are evil because they don’t pretend that the population is overwhelmingly transgendered.

      Cheers,

      b&

      >

  24. Hugh Haskell
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Not only does St. James not understand biology (and science in general), he (she?) doesn’t understand mathematics. A theorem in mathematics does require an unbroken chain of reason to be valid, but a scientific theory, while related (that’s why they have similar names)is not a theorem. A theory can and frequently does encounter counterexamples that do not negate the theory, although sometimes they do. So because the X and Y chromosomes do not always yield the traditional results, does not mean that biology is false, only that probability is prominent in science.

  25. Richard
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m so sick of the “trans people” argument. Just because someone wants to change their sex, regardless of cause, doesn’t change the fact that humans can be classified as male or female. The set up is particularly disgusting as it uses traits that are the sum of many individual issues such as sexual orientation or intelligence to dishonestly suggest that sex is the same thing.

    I’m trans and this is just embarrassing. Let science do ita work, it might find a better treatment than what exists today. Furthermore, I think that trans people suggest more that sexual identity is complex, such as in some other animals. That makes far more sense than suggesting that gender was made up to oppress these people.

    Oh, and if you’re trans, you’re surrounded by this nonsense. It’s like a yoga class talking about chakras, on steroids.

    • Posted June 7, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      You haven’t been paying attention. *Most* humans can be classified as either male or female. BUT NOT ALL.

      Just read the website post you’re responding to, fercryinoutloud

      • Posted June 8, 2017 at 5:13 am | Permalink

        Most people have two legs BUT NOT ALL so we are not a bipedal species.

        Most people have 23 chromosomes BUT NOT ALL so we are not a species with 23 chromosomes.

  26. eric
    Posted June 7, 2017 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    “If one instance of a mathematical proof is shown to be wrong, then the entire proof has to be tossed on account of it being deemed inaccurate. [JAC: what he means is that “the proof is wrong”.] Because it’s—you know—useless to the bettering and/or benefit of humankind. Call me starry-eyed, but I’m preeeeetty sure we like to treat our science like our math as often as we can.”

    So, does that mean a single misspelling of a word in his article (say, “pretty”) means we must throw the entire article out, because all the content is worthless?

    I’m good with that.

    • harrync
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      And Newtonian physics is sometimes wrong, so obviously it was never of any use to humankind.

  27. Posted June 8, 2017 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    I have a postulation, with NO evidence, that the huge increase in gender dysphoria, is at least partly related to environmental pollution interfering with foetal development.

    • Posted June 8, 2017 at 5:10 am | Permalink

      Gender studies approves of your brave stand against cisheteronormative empiricism.

    • Adam M.
      Posted June 8, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Well, there were reports starting a decade or two ago about the incidence of sex abnormalities in aquatic organisms being sharply on the rise apparently due to hormone-disrupting chemical pollutants (like BPA & friends) becoming widespread.

      BPA is now in almost all food and drink, including breastmilk, and concentrations are much higher in Americans than, for instance, in Canadians, due to relatively lax regulations.

  28. Posted June 8, 2017 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    There is a very marked and worrying bias in listicles: decaphilia. It is clearly suspicious that so many have -0 or -5 points. We need far more of these articles with, eg, 9, 17 or 23 to allay these concerns. And when do we want them? How about not quite now, but 14 or 37 minutes?

  29. Posted June 8, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    If he rejects the correlation between chromosomes and biological sex because of a few disorders that blur the lines for rare individuals, he presumably rejects even simpler statements like “Humans have hands” because of a comparably small set of counterexamples due to birth defects.

    • Posted June 8, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      I’ve seen something similar, I think, in the context of deafness or blindness.

  30. alwyn
    Posted June 8, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    obviously biological sex means something, otherwise trans people (myself included) wouldn’t feel the need to alter their biological characteristics through hormones or surgery. it’s a clumsy argument that sets up a strawman claim of a one-to-one correspondence between chromosomes and sexual characteristics and even gender identity, and then attempts to knock it down by arguing for the complete opposite, that chromosomes determine nothing at all (while somehow-kinda-ish admitting that they do), when either extreme is equally wrong. arguments that ignore or erase the reality of the biological differences that produce so much dysphoria in trans or non-binary or intersex people do not help them at all, and my feeling is that the writer probably does not actually belong to any of these populations. rather, they’re more likely a cis, straight, and gender-conforming person who somehow feels guilty about all their privilege, and therefore attempts to impose an arbitrary and false equality on members of sexual/gender minorities in order to make themselves feel better.

  31. Posted June 8, 2017 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    I hear a certain college in the Pacific Northwest is searching for a new biology instructor. James St. James might be the perfect candidate!

  32. Benjay
    Posted June 8, 2017 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    I grew up in a place where people all met each other as they were.
    Our first female firefighter occured in 1988.
    It was no big deal.

    Nowadays, the politicians want to be spread equal like Nordic countries, in politics.
    Fighting fires.

    You need statesmen……&Trump is a teenager. A dinosaur.
    Remember the tv show?

    Dinosaurs? I seen a pigeon at work.

    Two-spirited, was a native, and greek concept.
    Lou Reed was educated, but dumb.
    Teenager?

    How could he know what we’d become.
    Mark Knofler…..he fucked up, bigtime .

    Said faggot.

    I dunno. Nature is tricky.
    Nixon was gay.
    Hoover. FilterQueen.

    I rest my case USA.


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